Getting a Fishing License in Alabama: What You Need to Know
Sep 18, 2019 | 7 minute read
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Alabama is known for its diverse opportunities in freshwater and saltwater fishing. From its rivers and lakes to its coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay, Alabama is a haven for all types of anglers. But before you grab your rod and reel, make sure you’re covered by an Alabama fishing license and that you’re familiar with the local rules and regulations.

map of alabama and its surrounding states

Fortunately, the process is quick, easy, and hassle-free. This blog will cover everything you need to know, so you can enjoy a fun day of fishing in the “Heart of Dixie!”

Who Needs an Alabama Fishing License? Who’s Exempt?

Everyone between 16 and 65 needs to purchase a fishing license. Both residents and non-residents under the age of 16 are exempt, as well as residents over the age of 65. 

If you’re an Alabama resident fishing from a local bank in your county, there’s no need for a license. All you need to do in that case is provide proof of residency. Out of state visitors over 16 have to purchase the right fishing license, regardless. Just note that in order to be considered an Alabama resident, you must declare Alabama as your only state of residence. This means you shouldn’t have a valid driver’s license from any other state.

Alabama residents visiting home on military leave are exempt from having to pay for a license, as well. Non-resident college students between ages 17 and 23 are also exempt and can obtain a residency exception from your local probate office, license commissioner, marine resource office, or any authorized outdoor recreation office. Senior citizens above the age of 65 just need to show valid ID to prove their age and place of residence, and you’re all set.

As mentioned above, you don’t need to buy a license if you’re fishing with an AL saltwater guide or charter. If you’re fishing in freshwater, you’ll need to purchase a license regardless of whether you’re alone or with a guide service.

What if I’m on a charter boat?

alabama saltwater fishing charters

If you’re planning to hop on an Alabama saltwater charter, no need to worry, your license is covered by the boat. Charters, headboats, and saltwater fishing guides are all required to have a boat license that covers everyone on board. 

If you’re fishing with a freshwater guide, however, you will need to purchase a fishing license beforehand. Keep reading to find out where and how to go about getting one.

How Much Does a Fishing License Cost?

The cost of an Alabama fishing license depends on several different factors. Alabama residents can purchase their licenses at a lower rate than non-residents. There are also discounts available for disabled individuals and disabled military veterans.

There are discounts for military non-residents who are stationed in Alabama. Just visit your local probate office, license commissioner, marine resource office, or any authorized outdoor recreation office and bring a copy of your orders of assignment to Alabama. You’ll get your Military Residency Exception from one of these locations and you’ll be ready to start fishing in no time!

Here’s a short breakdown of what residents and non-residents should expect to pay:

table explaining the different prices for recreational fishing licenses in alabama broken down by resident and non-resident

If you’re spearfishing, keep in mind that you’ll need the appropriate sportfishing license (freshwater or saltwater) in addition to your spearfishing license.

The table below shows the prices for residents and non-residents who are either partially or totally disabled, including military veterans:

table explaining the different prices for disabled and veteran fishing licenses in alabama broken down by resident and non-resident

The best part is, you can feel good after buying your fishing license. Every penny you spend goes towards the conservation and protection of Alabama’s marine wildlife, as well as education about the state’s natural resources. So after your purchase, you can rest easy knowing that your money is being put towards good causes.

Different Types of Fishing Licenses

Most residents and visitors of Alabama will have to purchase a fishing license. Whether you’re looking to go offshore fishing in the Gulf or hook freshwater game fish in the Tennessee River, you should know what species your license covers.

Freshwater vs. Saltwater Licenses

Freshwater and Saltwater fishing licenses are the most basic licenses you can buy. Keep in mind there isn’t an individual license for fishing in brackish water, so if you plan on fishing somewhere where it’s possible to hook both fresh and saltwater fish, you’d probably be best off purchasing both types of licenses. The last thing you want is an unexpected fine because you weren’t sure which species you’re allowed to catch. If you catch a fish that isn’t covered by your license, make sure you release it right away. For example, if you’re fishing with a saltwater license in an estuary, such as the Mobile Bay, and you accidentally hook a Black Bass, make sure you safely release it back into the wild.

map of freshwater and saltwater fishing areas in Alabama and gulf of mexico

In addition, there are also the following annual licenses available:

  • Wildlife Heritage Licenses
  • Wirebasket Licenses
  • Spearfishing Licenses
  • Freshwater Commercial Fishing Licenses

A Wildlife Heritage License allows you to fish in specially protected waters under the jurisdiction of the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. A Wirebasket License lets you fish non-game fish in public freshwaters. A Spearfishing License gives you the opportunity to dive and recreationally or commercially target fish with a speargun in both fresh and saltwater. And a Freshwater Commercial Fishing License allows residents to use commercial fishing tackle to target and take home non-game fish in public waters.

Are there any fish that require special permits or tags?

There are no specific tags required for game fishing in Alabama, aside from a $61 tag for keeping, killing, or harvesting Tarpon. This is used by Alabama’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to conduct Tarpon research. There are, however, size and bag limits in place for certain species. If you’re caught exceeding the daily limit, you could get charged with a misdemeanor and end up paying a fine. Below are 2 tables displaying some of the bag limits for freshwater and saltwater species:


table showing individual bag limits for freshwater species in alabama


table depicting fishing limits for saltwater species in alabama

For more information about bagging and size limits of freshwater and saltwater species, you can visit the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website. Here, you’ll also find information about prohibited species, as well as catch and release regulations in specific areas.

What about lifetime fishing licenses?

Finally, there are lifetime Alabama fishing licenses available to those most ardent anglers. You just make a one-time purchase and you’re set for life. The only requirement is that you are a state resident with a driver’s license or non-driver’s ID. 

How and Where to Get a License

Getting a fishing license in Alabama is pretty easy. You can purchase one from any of the following local government offices:

  • Your county’s probate office
  • The license commissioner’s office
  • State park locations

You can also go to a certified retailer, such as the following:

  • Walmart
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods
  • Academy Sports
  • Ace Hardware
  • Any state-registered bait and tackle store

Or, the easiest option: buy your license online by going to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website. 

Make sure you have a valid form of ID, either a driver’s license or passport, and your social security number. If you’re eligible for a military discount, be sure to have your assignment paperwork with you, as well. As long as you have these documents available, you shouldn’t have any issues obtaining your license.

When does my license expire?

This depends on the type of license you buy. All annual licenses are valid from the date of purchase until August 31. Seven-day licenses are valid for 168 consecutive hours from the time of purchase, 3-day licenses for 72 hours, and 1-day licenses for 24 hours. Lifetime licenses last throughout your entire lifespan so you don’t have to worry about renewing it each year.

You can renew your license through Outdoor Alabama’s online portal, at any official retailer, probate office, or license state commissioner.

What if I lose my fishing license?

If your fishing license is lost or stolen, you’ll have to get it replaced in order to continue to fish legally. Like licensing renewals, you can order a replacement online, or at your local probate office or license state commissioner’s office. 

Please note that if your fishing license has been voided, revoked, or suspended, it cannot be reprinted.

What if I fish with no license?

If you fish with no license in the state of Alabama, you can be charged with a misdemeanor and pay a fine of $10–$25 per offense. With that in mind, it’s best to avoid any legal issues and just get a license.

Is my Alabama fishing license valid in any other state?

tennessee river charters in alabama

Alabama has a reciprocal agreement with the state of Mississippi which allows licenses from either state to be recognized in the Tennessee River and its surrounding embayments where Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee meet. 

There are no reciprocal agreements for fishing in the Gulf, however. You can legally fish with your AL fishing license up to the Mississippi state line or Grand Bay to the west, and the Florida state line or Perdido Bay to the east. As long as you stay within these boundaries, you have nothing to worry about it.

Now you’ve got all the information you need to hit the open waters for a fun day of fishing. Pack your stuff, pick up a fishing license, and get ready to explore Alabama’s vast freshwater and saltwater opportunities. Last but not least, come back and drop a comment here to let us know about your experiences!

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